Taylor Swift’s “evermore” is more than just another “folklore”

Wrap+yourself+up+in+a+flannel+and+get+ready+to+enjoy+Taylor+Swift%27s+new+album.

Courtesy of Republic Records

Wrap yourself up in a flannel and get ready to enjoy Taylor Swift’s new album.

Shreyas Banerjee, A&E Editor

2020 was a crazy year for Taylor Swift.

Coming straight off of the release of her 2019 album “Lover,” Swift seemed on track for a typical year, going on tour across the world with her new pop ballads. But this past year has been anything but typical.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down all major live music performances, Swift found herself with more time on her hands than ever, allowing her to create her most creative and subdued album up to that point, “folklore.” Released in July 2020, less than a year after her last album, “folklore” redefined what the public thought a Taylor Swift album could be. Shifting away from her highly produced pop records, “folklore” focused on stories from her life and strived for a more indie feel, featuring backing tracks from Aaron Dessner and more raw and vulnerable vocals. Each track also ostensibly told the stories of fictional characters, a novelty for Swift, but still reflected the genuine emotions Swift fans have come to expect. This new style of storytelling melded together with the lo-fi production, creating a whole new type of Taylor Swift music.

With this combination of new styles, a shadow drop and absolutely zero promotional buildup, “folklore” could have easily been a massive failure for the music icon. Instead, it received rave reviews and went on to be the highest-selling album of the year. The album even became Swift’s first album to be nominated for the Grammy Album of the Year since 2014’s seminal “1989.” By reflecting on the hurt and mistakes she’s made, Swift’s visceral album provided listeners with an emotional catharsis that proved to be exactly what we needed during the unprecedented year of hardship.

Since then, Swift has been insanely productive, re-recording her previous music after ownership disputes and producing a Disney+ documentary concert film of her performing “folklore” while detailing the creative process and the meanings of each track. With all that content it seemed impossible that Swift had another surprise up her sleeve.

 

Despite all that, Swift released her ninth album, “evermore,” in December of 2020, once again with a surprise drop. A spiritual sequel, or “sister album,” to “folklore,” the newly released album tries to repeat the same tricks and further explore what’s possible within these new genre boundaries. It would be a mistake, however, to say that “evermore” is simply more “folklore.” While the two certainly go together stylistically, “evermore” experiments further with the current escapist persona Swift has currently created for herself and pushes her work in both new and old directions.

“We just couldn’t stop writing songs,” Swift said upon release, and that’s certainly evident in the track listing. With 17 tracks that build on the foundation that is “folklore,” the new album features stories of love, broken relationships, regret, longing and acceptance. Starting off with the lead single, “willow,” Swift once again builds upon the theme of the inevitability of true love and the underlying connections that bind us together. This is then immediately followed by a heartbreaking story of a couple in college that come to very different conclusions about the state of their relationship in “champagne problems.” This pattern of unpredictability continues throughout the album, with each song contrasting with another. From one song describing the feelings involved in holiday hookups with a hometown lover, to a country-based track involving tropes like cheating and murder, to a lament on a once consuming relationship that is now lost, each song’s subject matter varies considerably. Yet, all of the tracks are bound together by a common theme of acceptance.

If “folklore” was about acknowledging one’s inner pain and mistakes, “evermore” is about moving on from these struggles and knowing that you can heal. While this theme is present in all tracks, from “tolerate it,” which focuses on an emotionally checked out relationship, to “happiness,” which focuses on finding life after a partner leaves you, it’s best embodied in the title track, which acknowledges that “this pain wouldn’t be for / Evermore.”

Other standout tracks include “ivy,” a strumming song on the excitement of an affair, and “marjorie,” which is dedicated to Swift’s late grandmother Marjorie Finley, and the guilt she faces from not knowing her well enough. In an extremely clever fashion, the song integrates Finley’s vocals in a way that just gives chills. Throughout all of the songs, there’s this shared dedication to experimentation and a common ode to the ideas of self-forgiveness and moving forward. Sometimes, as one of the deluxe tracks says, “it’s time to go.”

Presumably, we’ll get a big break before getting new Swift music, with an inevitable reinvention in the works. If it’s half as interesting and resonating as this current period has been, count me in. Fittingly, in the song, “happiness,” Swift sings that we “haven’t met the new me yet.” Well, after this, the doors are wide open and I certainly can’t wait for what she does and who she becomes next.